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THE PARLIAMENT OF FOWLS
lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th' assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne:
Al this mene I by Love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
So sore, iwis, that whan I on hym thynke
Nat wot I wel wher that I flete or synke.
For al be that I knowe nat Love in dede,
Ne wot how that he quiteth folk here hyre,
Yit happeth me ful ofte in bokes reede
Of his myrakles and his crewel yre.
There rede I wel he wol be lord and syre;
I dar nat seyn, his strokes been so sore,
But "God save swich a lord!" -- I can na moore.
Of usage -- what for lust and what for lore --
On bokes rede I ofte, as I yow tolde.
But wherfore that I speke al this? Nat yoore
Agon it happede me for to beholde
Upon a bok, was write with lettres olde,
And therupon, a certeyn thing to lerne,
The longe day ful faste I redde and yerne.
For out of olde feldes, as men seyth,
Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere,
And out of olde bokes, in good feyth,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere.
But now to purpos as of this matere:
To rede forth hit gan me so delite
That al that day me thoughte but a lyte.
This bok of which I make mencioun
Entitled was al ther, as I shal telle:
"Tullyus of the Drem of Scipioun."
Chapitres sevene it hadde, of hevene and helle
And erthe, and soules that therinne dwelle,
Of whiche, as shortly as I can it trete,
Of his sentence I wol yow seyn the greete.
Fyrst telleth it, whan Scipion was come
In Affrike, how he meteth Massynisse,
That hym for joie in armes hath inome;
Thanne telleth [it] here speche and al the blysse
That was betwix hem til the day gan mysse,
And how his auncestre, Affrycan so deere,
Gan in his slep that nyght to hym apere.
Thanne telleth it that, from a sterry place,
How Affrycan hath hym Cartage shewed,
And warnede hym beforn of al his grace,
And seyde hym what man, lered other lewed,
That lovede commune profyt, wel ithewed,
He shulde into a blysful place wende
There as joye is that last withouten ende.
Thanne axede he if folk that here been dede
Han lyf and dwellynge in another place.
And Affrican seyde, "Ye, withouten drede,"
And that oure present worldes lyves space
Nis but a maner deth, what wey we trace;
And rightful folk shul gon, after they dye,
To hevene; and shewede hym the Galaxye.
Thanne shewede he hym the lytel erthe that here is,
At regard of the hevenes quantite;
And after shewede he hym the nyne speres;
And after that the melodye herde he
That cometh of thilke speres thryes thre,
That welle is of musik and melodye
In this world here, and cause of armonye.
Than bad he hym, syn erthe was so lyte,
And dissevable and ful of harde grace,
That he ne shulde hym in the world delyte.
Thanne tolde he hym, in certeyn yeres space
That every sterre shulde come into his place
Ther it was first, and al shulde out of mynde
That in this world is don of al mankynde.
Thanne preyede hym Scipion to telle hym al
The wey to come into that hevene blisse.
And he seyde, "Know thyself first immortal,
And loke ay besyly thow werche and wysse
To commune profit, and thow shalt not mysse
To comen swiftly to that place deere
That ful of blysse is and of soules cleere.
"But brekers of the lawe, soth to seyne,
And likerous folk, after that they ben dede,
Shul whirle aboute th' erthe alwey in peyne,
Tyl many a world be passed, out of drede,
And than, foryeven al hir wikked dede,
Than shul they come into that blysful place,
To which to comen God the sende his grace."
The day gan faylen, and the derke nyght,
That reveth bestes from here besynesse,
Berafte me my bok for lak of lyght,
And to my bed I gan me for to dresse,
Fulfyld of thought and busy hevynesse;
For bothe I hadde thyng which that I nolde,
And ek I ne hadde that thyng that I wolde.
But fynally my spirit at the laste,
For wery of my labour al the day,
Tok reste, that made me to slepe faste;
And in my slep I mette, as that I lay,
How Affrican, ryght in the selve aray
That Scipion hym say byfore that tyde,
Was come and stod right at my beddes syde.
The wery huntere, slepynge in his bed,
To wode ayeyn his mynde goth anon;
The juge dremeth how his plees been sped;
The cartere dremeth how his cart is gon;
The riche, of gold; the knyght fyght with his fon;
The syke met he drynketh of the tonne;
The lovere met he hath his lady wonne.
Can I not seyn if that the cause were
For I hadde red of Affrican byforn
That made me to mete that he stod there;
But thus seyde he: "Thow hast the so wel born
In lokynge of myn olde bok totorn,
Of which Macrobye roughte nat a lyte,
That sumdel of thy labour wolde I quyte."
Cytherea, thow blysful lady swete,
That with thy fyrbrond dauntest whom the lest
And madest me this sweven for to mete,
Be thow myn helpe in this, for thow mayst best!
As wisly as I sey the north-north-west,
Whan I began my sweven for to write,
So yif me myght to ryme, and endyte!
This forseyde Affrican me hente anon
And forth with hym unto a gate broughte,
Ryght of a park walled with grene ston;
And over the gate, with lettres large iwroughte,
There were vers iwriten, as me thoughte,
On eyther half, of ful gret difference,
Of which I shal yow seyn the pleyn sentence:
"Thorgh me men gon into that blysful place
Of hertes hele and dedly woundes cure;
Thorgh me men gon unto the welle of grace,
There grene and lusty May shal evere endure.
This is the wey to al good aventure.
Be glad, thow redere, and thy sorwe of-caste;
Al open am I -- passe in, and sped thee faste!"
"Thorgh me men gon," than spak that other side,
"Unto the mortal strokes of the spere
Of which Disdayn and Daunger is the gyde,
Ther nevere tre shal fruyt ne leves bere.
This strem yow ledeth to the sorweful were
There as the fish in prysoun is al drye;
Th' eschewing is only the remedye!"
These vers of gold and blak iwriten were,
Of whiche I gan astoned to beholde.
For with that oon encresede ay my fere
And with that other gan myn herte bolde;
That oon me hette, that other dide me colde;
No wit hadde I, for errour, for to chese
To entre or flen, or me to save or lese.
Right as betwixen adamauntes two
Of evene myght, a pece of yren set
Ne hath no myght to meve to ne fro --
For what that oon may hale, that other let --
Ferde I, that nyste whether me was bet
To entre or leve, til Affrycan, my gide,
Me hente and shof in at the gates wide,
And seyde, "It stondeth writen in thy face,
Thyn errour, though thow telle it not to me;
But dred the not to come into this place,
For this writyng nys nothyng ment bi the,
Ne by non but he Loves servaunt be:
For thow of love hast lost thy tast, I gesse,
As sek man hath of swete and bytternesse.
"But natheles, although that thow be dul,
Yit that thow canst not do, yit mayst thow se.
For many a man that may nat stonde a pul
Yet liketh hym at wrastlyng for to be,
And demen yit wher he do bet or he.
And if thow haddest connyng for t' endite,
I shal the shewe mater of to wryte."
With that myn hand in his he tok anon,
Of which I confort caughte, and wente in faste.
But, Lord, so I was glad and wel begoon!
For overal where that I myne eyen caste
Were trees clad with leves that ay shal laste,
Ech in his kynde, of colour fresh and greene
As emeraude, that joye was to seene.
The byldere ok, and ek the hardy asshe;
The piler elm, the cofre unto carayne;
The boxtre pipere, holm to whippes lashe;
The saylynge fyr; the cipresse, deth to playne;
The shetere ew; the asp for shaftes pleyne;
The olyve of pes, and eke the dronke vyne;
The victor palm, the laurer to devyne.
A gardyn saw I ful of blosmy bowes
Upon a ryver, in a grene mede,
There as swetnesse everemore inow is,
With floures white, blewe, yelwe, and rede,
And colde welle-stremes, nothyng dede,
That swymmen ful of smale fishes lighte,
With fynnes rede and skales sylver bryghte.
On every bow the bryddes herde I synge,
With voys of aungel in here armonye;
Some besyede hem here bryddes forth to brynge;
The litel conyes to here pley gonne hye;
And ferther al aboute I gan aspye
The dredful ro, the buk, the hert and hynde,
Squyrels, and bestes smale of gentil kynde.
Of instruments of strenges in acord
Herde I so pleye a ravyshyng swetnesse,
That God, that makere is of al and lord,
Ne herde nevere beter, as I gesse.
Therwith a wynd, unnethe it myghte be lesse,
Made in the leves grene a noyse softe
Acordaunt to the foules song alofte.
Th' air of that place so attempre was
That nevere was grevaunce of hot ne cold.
There wex ek every holsom spice and gras;
No man may there waxe sek ne old;
Yit was there joye more a thousandfold
Than man can telle; ne nevere wolde it nyghte,
But ay cler day to any mannes syghte.
Under a tre, besyde a welle, I say
Cupide, oure lord, his arwes forge and file;
And at his fet his bowe al redy lay;
And Wille, his doughter, temprede al this while
The hevedes in the welle, and with hire wile
She couchede hem, after they shulde serve
Some for to sle, and some to wounde and kerve.
Tho was I war of Plesaunce anon-ryght,
And of Aray, and Lust, and Curteysie,
And of the Craft that can and hath the myght
To don by force a wyght to don folye --
Disfigurat was she, I nyl nat lye;
And by hymself, under an ok, I gesse,
Saw I Delyt, that stod with Gentilesse.
I saw Beute withouten any atyr,
And Youthe, ful of game and jolyte;
Foolhardynesse, Flaterye, and Desyr,
Messagerye, and Meede, and other thre --
Here names shul not here be told for me --
And upon pilers greete of jasper longe
I saw a temple of bras ifounded stronge.
Aboute the temple daunsedyn alwey
Women inowe, of whiche some ther weere
Fayre of hemself, and some of hem were gay;
In kertels, al dishevele, wente they there:
That was here offyce alwey, yer by yeere.
And on the temple, of dowves white and fayre
Saw I syttynge many an hundred peyre.
Byfore the temple-dore ful soberly
Dame Pees sat, with a curtyn in hire hond,
And by hire syde, wonder discretly,
Dame Pacience syttynge there I fond,
With face pale, upon an hil of sond;
And aldernext, withinne and ek withoute,
Byheste and Art, and of here folk a route.
Withinne the temple, of sykes hoote as fyr
I herde a swogh that gan aboute renne,
Whiche sikes were engendered with desyr,
That maden every auter for to brenne
Of newe flaume; and wel espyed I thenne
That al the cause of sorwes that they drye
Cam of the bittere goddesse Jelosye.
The god Priapus saw I, as I wente,
Withinne the temple in sovereyn place stonde,
In swich aray as whan the asse hym shente
With cri by nighte, and with hys sceptre in honde.
Ful besyly men gonne assaye and fonde
Upon his hed to sette, of sondry hewe,
Garlondes ful of freshe floures newe.
And in a prive corner in disport
Fond I Venus and hire porter Richesse,
That was ful noble and hautayn of hyre port --
Derk was that place, but afterward lightnesse
I saw a lyte, unnethe it myghte be lesse --
And on a bed of gold she lay to reste,
Til that the hote sonne gan to weste.
Hyre gilte heres with a golden thred
Ibounden were, untressed as she lay,
And naked from the brest unto the hed
Men myghte hire sen; and, sothly for to say,
The remenaunt was wel kevered to my pay,
Ryght with a subtyl coverchef of Valence --
Ther was no thikkere cloth of no defense.
The place yaf a thousand savours sote,
And Bachus, god of wyn, sat hire besyde,
And Ceres next, that doth of hunger boote,
And, as I seyde, amyddes lay Cypride,
To whom on knees two yonge folk ther cryde
To ben here helpe. But thus I let hire lye,
And ferther in the temple I gan espie
That, in dispit of Dyane the chaste,
Ful many a bowe ibroke heng on the wal
Of maydenes swiche as gonne here tymes waste
In hyre servyse; and peynted overal
Ful many a story, of which I touche shal
A fewe, as of Calyxte and Athalante,
And many a mayde of which the name I wante.
Semyramis, Candace, and Hercules,
Biblis, Dido, Thisbe, and Piramus,
Tristram, Isaude, Paris, and Achilles,
Eleyne, Cleopatre, and Troylus,
Silla, and ek the moder of Romulus:
Alle these were peynted on that other syde,
And al here love, and in what plyt they dyde.
Whan I was come ayeyn into the place
That I of spak, that was so sote and grene,
Forth welk I tho myselven to solace.
Tho was I war wher that ther sat a queene
That, as of lyght the somer sonne shene
Passeth the sterre, right so over mesure
She fayrer was than any creature.
And in a launde, upon an hil of floures,
Was set this noble goddesse Nature.
Of braunches were here halles and here boures
Iwrought after here cast and here mesure;
Ne there nas foul that cometh of engendrure
That they ne were prest in here presence
To take hire dom and yeve hire audyence.
For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every foul cometh there to chese his make,
Of every kynde that men thynke may,
And that so huge a noyse gan they make
That erthe, and eyr, and tre, and every lake
So ful was that unethe was there space
For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.
And right as Aleyn, in the Pleynt of Kynde,
Devyseth Nature of aray and face,
In swich aray men myghte hire there fynde.
This noble emperesse, ful of grace,
Bad every foul to take his owne place,
As they were woned alwey fro yer to yeere,
Seynt Valentynes day, to stonden theere.
That is to seyn, the foules of ravyne
Weere hyest set, and thanne the foules smale
That eten, as hem Nature wolde enclyne,
As worm or thyng of which I telle no tale;
And water-foul sat lowest in the dale;
But foul that lyveth by sed sat on the grene,
And that so fele that wonder was to sene.
There myghte men the royal egle fynde,
That with his sharpe lok perseth the sonne,
And othere egles of a lowere kynde,
Of whiche that clerkes wel devyse conne.
Ther was the tiraunt with his fetheres donne
And grey -- I mene the goshauk that doth pyne
To bryddes for his outrageous ravyne.
The gentyl faucoun, that with his feet distrayneth
The kynges hand; the hardy sperhauk eke,
The quayles foo; the merlioun, that payneth
Hymself ful ofte the larke for to seke;
There was the douve with hire yen meke;
The jelous swan, ayens his deth that syngeth.
The oule ek, that of deth the bode bryngeth.
The crane, the geaunt, with his trompes soun;
The thef, the chough; and ek the janglynge pye;
The skornynge jay; the eles fo, heroun;
The false lapwynge, ful of trecherye;
The stare, that the conseyl can bewrye;
The tame ruddok, and the coward kyte;
The kok, that orloge is of thorpes lyte;
The sparwe, Venus sone; the nyghtyngale,
That clepeth forth the grene leves newe;
The swalwe, mortherere of the foules smale
That maken hony of floures freshe of hewe;
The wedded turtil, with hire herte trewe;
The pekok, with his aungels fetheres bryghte;
The fesaunt, skornere of the cok by nyghte;
The waker goos; the cukkow ever unkynde;
The popynjay, ful of delicasye;
The drake, stroyere of his owene kynde;
The stork, the wrekere of avouterye;
The hote cormeraunt of glotenye;
The raven wys; the crowe with vois of care;
The throstil old; the frosty feldefare.
What shulde I seyn? Of foules every kynde
That in this world han fetheres and stature
Men myghten in that place assembled fynde
Byfore the noble goddesse Nature,
And ech of hem dide his besy cure
Benygnely to chese or for to take,
By hire acord, his formel or his make.
But to the poynt: Nature held on hire hond
A formel egle, of shap the gentilleste
That evere she among hire werkes fond,
The moste benygne and the goodlieste.
In hire was everi vertu at his reste,
So ferforth that Nature hireself hadde blysse
To loke on hire, and ofte hire bek to kysse.
Nature, the vicaire of the almyghty Lord,
That hot, cold, hevy, lyght, moyst, and dreye
Hath knyt by evene noumbres of acord,
In esy voys began to speke and seye,
"Foules, tak hed of my sentence, I preye,
And for youre ese, in fortheryng of youre nede,
As faste as I may speke, I wol yow speede.
"Ye knowe wel how, Seynt Valentynes day,
By my statut and thorgh my governaunce,
Ye come for to cheese -- and fle youre wey --
Youre makes, as I prike yow with plesaunce;
But natheles, my ryghtful ordenaunce
May I nat lete for al this world to wynne,
That he that most is worthi shal begynne.
"The tersel egle, as that ye knowe wel,
The foul royal, above yow in degre,
The wyse and worthi, secre, trewe as stel,
Which I have formed, as ye may wel se,
In every part as it best liketh me --
It nedeth not his shap yow to devyse --
He shal first chese and speken in his gyse.
"And after hym by ordre shul ye chese,
After youre kynde, everich as yow lyketh,
And, as youre hap is, shul ye wynne or lese.
But which of yow that love most entriketh,
God sende hym hire that sorest for hym syketh!"
And therwithal the tersel gan she calle,
And seyde, "My sone, the choys is to the falle.
"But natheles, in this condicioun
Mot be the choys of everich that is heere,
That she agre to his eleccioun,
Whoso he be that shulde be hire feere.
This is oure usage alwey, fro yer to yeere,
And whoso may at this tyme have his grace
In blisful tyme he cam into this place!"
With hed enclyned and with humble cheere
This royal tersel spak, and tariede noght:
"Unto my soverayn lady, and not my fere,
I chese, and chese with wil, and herte, and thought,
The formel on youre hond, so wel iwrought,
Whos I am al, and evere wol hire serve,
Do what hire lest, to do me lyve or sterve;
"Besekynge hire of merci and of grace,
As she that is my lady sovereyne;
Or let me deye present in this place.
For certes, longe may I nat lyve in payne,
For in myn herte is korven every veyne.
Havynge reward only to my trouthe,
My deere herte, have on my wo som routhe.
"And if that I be founde to hyre untrewe,
Disobeysaunt, or wilful necligent,
Avauntour, or in proces love a newe,
I preye to yow this be my jugement:
That with these foules I be al torent,
That ilke day that evere she me fynde
To hir untrewe, or in my gilt unkynde.
"And syn that non loveth hire so wel as I,
Al be she nevere of love me behette,
Thanne oughte she be myn thourgh hire mercy,
For other bond can I non on hire knette.
Ne nevere for no wo ne shal I lette
To serven hire, how fer so that she wende;
Say what yow list, my tale is at an ende."
Ryght as the freshe, rede rose newe
Ayeyn the somer sonne coloured is,
Ryght so for shame al wexen gan the hewe
Of this formel, whan she herde al this;
She neyther answerde wel, ne seyde amys,
So sore abasht was she, tyl that Nature
Seyde, "Doughter, drede yow nought, I yow assure."
Another tersel egle spak anon,
Of lower kynde, and seyde, "That shal nat be!
I love hire bet than ye don, by Seint John,
Or at the leste I love hire as wel as ye,
And lenger have served hire in my degre;
And if she shulde have loved for long lovynge,
To me allone hadde be the guerdonynge.
"I dar ek seyn, if she me fynde fals,
Unkynde, janglere, or rebel any wyse,
Or jelous, do me hangen by the hals!
And, but I bere me in hire servyse
As wel as that my wit can me suffyse,
From poynt in poynt, hyre honour for to save,
Take she my lif and al the good I have!"
The thridde tercel egle answerde tho,
"Now, sires, ye seen the lytel leyser heere;
For every foul cryeth out to ben ago
Forth with his make, or with his lady deere;
And ek Nature hireself ne wol not heere,
For taryinge here, not half that I wolde seye;
And but I speke, I mot for sorwe deye.
"Of long servyse avaunte I me nothing;
But as possible is me to deye to-day
For wo as he that hath ben languysshyng
This twenty wynter, and wel happen may;
A man may serven bet and more to pay
In half a yer, although it were no moore,
Than som man doth that hath served ful yoore.
"I seye not this by me, for I ne can
Don no servyse that may my lady plese;
But I dar seyn, I am hire treweste man
As to my dom, and faynest wolde hire ese.
At shorte wordes, til that deth me sese
I wol ben heres, whether I wake or wynke,
And trewe in al that herte may bethynke."
Of al my lyf, syn that day I was born,
So gentil ple in love or other thyng
Ne herde nevere no man me beforn --
Who that hadde leyser and connyng
For to reherse hire chere and hire spekyng;
And from the morwe gan this speche laste
Tyl dounward went the sonne wonder faste.
The noyse of foules for to ben delyvered
So loude rong, "Have don, and lat us wende!"
That wel wende I the wode hadde al to-shyvered.
"Com of!" they criede, "allas, ye wol us shende!
Whan shal youre cursede pletynge have an ende?
How sholde a juge eyther parti leve
For ye or nay withouten any preve?"
The goos, the cokkow, and the doke also
So cryede, "Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!" hye,
That thourgh myne eres the noyse wente tho.
The goos seyde, "Al this nys not worth a flye!
But I can shape herof a remedie,
And I wol seye my verdit fayre and swythe
For water-foul, whoso be wroth or blythe!"
"And I for worm-foul," seyde the fol kokkow,
"For I wol of myn owene autorite,
For comune spede, take on the charge now,
For to delyvere us is gret charite."
"Ye may abyde a while yit, parde!"
Quod the turtel, "If it be youre wille
A wight may speke, hym were as fayr be stylle.
"I am a sed-foul, oon the unworthieste,
That wot I wel, and litel of connynge.
But bet is that a wyghtes tonge reste
Than entermeten hym of such doinge,
Of which he neyther rede can ne synge;
And whoso hit doth ful foule hymself acloyeth,
For office uncommytted ofte anoyeth."
Nature, which that alwey hadde an ere
To murmur of the lewednesse behynde,
With facound voys seyde, "Hold youre tonges there!
And I shal sone, I hope, a conseyl fynde
Yow to delyvere, and fro this noyse unbynde:
I juge, of every folk men shul oon calle
To seyn the verdit for yow foules alle."
Assented were to this conclusioun
The briddes alle; and foules of ravyne
Han chosen fyrst, by pleyn eleccioun,
The tercelet of the faucoun to diffyne
Al here sentence, and as him lest, termyne;
And to Nature hym gonne to presente,
And she accepteth hym with glad entente.
The terslet seyde thanne in this manere:
"Ful hard were it to preve by resoun
Who loveth best this gentil formel heere;
For everych hath swich replicacioun
That non by skilles may be brought adoun.
I can not se that argumentes avayle:
Thanne semeth it there moste be batayle."
"Al redy!" quod these egles tercels tho.
"Nay, sires," quod he, "if that I durste it seye,
Ye don me wrong, my tale is not ido!
For, sires -- ne taketh not agref I preye --
It may not gon as ye wolde in this weye;
Oure is the voys that han the charge in honde,
And to the juges dom ye moten stonde.
"And therfore pes! I seye, as to my wit,
Me wolde thynke how that the worthieste
Of knyghthod, and lengest had used it,
Most of estat, of blod the gentilleste,
Were sittyngest for hire, if that hir leste;
And of these thre she wot hireself, I trowe,
Which that he be, for it is light to knowe."
The water-foules han here hedes leid
Togedere, and of a short avysement,
Whan everych hadde his large golee seyd,
They seyden sothly, al by oon assent,
How that the goos, with here facounde gent,
"That so desyreth to pronounce oure nede,
Shal telle oure tale," and preyede "God hire spede!"
And for these water-foules tho began
The goos to speke, and in hire kakelynge
She seyde, "Pes! Now tak kep every man,
And herkeneth which a resoun I shal forth brynge!
My wit is sharp; I love no taryinge;
I seye I rede hym, though he were my brother,
But she wol love hym, lat hym love another!"
"Lo, here a parfit resoun of a goos!"
Quod the sperhauk; "Nevere mot she thee!
Lo, swich it is to have a tonge loos!
Now parde, fol, yit were it bet for the
Han holde thy pes than shewed thy nycete.
It lyth nat in his wit, ne in his wille,
But soth is seyd, `a fol can not be stille.'"
The laughter aros of gentil foules alle,
And right anon the sed-foul chosen hadde
The turtle trewe, and gonne hire to hem calle,
And preyeden hire to seyn the sothe sadde
Of this matere, and axede what she radde.
And she answerde that pleynly hire entente
She wolde shewe, and sothly what she mente.
"Nay, God forbede a lovere shulde chaunge!"
The turtle seyde, and wex for shame al red,
"Though that his lady everemore be straunge,
Yit lat hym serve hire ever, til he be ded.
Forsothe, I preyse nat the goses red;
`For, though she deyede, I wolde non other make;
I wol ben hires, til that the deth me take.'"
"Wel bourded," quod the doke, "by myn hat!
That men shulde loven alwey causeles!
Who can a resoun fynde or wit in that?
Daunseth he murye that is myrtheles?
Who shulde recche of that is recheles?"
"Ye queke," seyde the goos, "ful wel and fayre!
There been mo sterres, God wot, than a payre!"
"Now fy, cherl!" quod the gentil tercelet,
"Out of the donghil cam that word ful right!
Thow canst nat seen which thyng is wel beset!
Thow farst by love as oules don by lyght:
The day hem blent, ful wel they se by nyght.
Thy kynde is of so low a wrechednesse
That what love is, thow canst nouther seen ne gesse."
Tho gan the kokkow putte hym forth in pres
For foul that eteth worm, and seyde blyve: --
"So I," quod he, "may have my make in pes,
I reche nat how longe that ye stryve.
Lat ech of hem be soleyn al here lyve!
This is my red, syn they may nat acorde;
This shorte lessoun nedeth nat recorde."
"Ye, have the glotoun fild inow his paunche,
Thanne are we wel!" seyde the merlioun;
"Thow mortherere of the heysoge on the braunche
That broughte the forth, thow reufullest glotoun!
Lyve thow soleyn, wormes corupcioun,
For no fors is of lak of thy nature!
Go, lewed be thow whil the world may dure!"
"Now pes," quod Nature, "I comaunde heer!
For I have herd al youre opynyoun,
And in effect yit be we nevere the neer.
But fynally, this is my conclusioun,
That she hireself shal han hir eleccioun
Of whom hire lest; whoso be wroth or blythe,
Hym that she cheest, he shal hire han as swithe.
"For sith it may not here discussed be
Who loveth hire best, as seyde the tercelet,
Thanne wol I don hire this favour, that she
Shal han right hym on whom hire herte is set,
And he hire that his herte hath on hire knet:
Thus juge I, Nature, for I may not lye;
To non estat I have non other ye.
"But as for counseyl for to chese a make,
If I were Resoun, thanne wolde I
Conseyle yow the royal tercel take,
As seyde the tercelet ful skylfully,
As for the gentilleste and most worthi,
Which I have wrought so wel to my plesaunce
That to yow hit oughte to been a suffisaunce."
With dredful vois the formel hire answerde,
"My rightful lady, goddesse of Nature!
Soth is that I am evere under youre yerde,
As is everich other creature,
And mot be youres whil my lyf may dure;
And therfore graunteth me my firste bone,
And myn entente I wol yow sey right sone."
"I graunte it yow," quod she; and right anon
This formel egle spak in this degre:
"Almyghty queen, unto this yer be don,
I axe respit for to avise me,
And after that to have my choys al fre.
This al and som that I wol speke and seye;
Ye gete no more, although ye do me deye!
"I wol nat serve Venus ne Cupide,
Forsothe as yit, by no manere weye."
"Now, syn it may non otherwise betyde,"
Quod Nature, "heere is no more to seye.
Thanne wolde I that these foules were aweye,
Ech with his make, for taryinge lengere heere!"
And seyde hem thus, as ye shul after here.
"To yow speke I, ye tercelets," quod Nature,
"Beth of good herte, and serveth alle thre.
A yer is nat so longe to endure,
And ech of yow peyne him in his degre
For to do wel, for, God wot, quyt is she
Fro yow this yer; what after so befalle,
This entremes is dressed for yow alle."
And whan this werk al brought was to an ende,
To every foul Nature yaf his make
By evene acord, and on here way they wende.
And, Lord, the blisse and joye that they make!
For ech of hem gan other in wynges take,
And with here nekkes ech gan other wynde,
Thankynge alwey the noble goddesse of kynde.
But fyrst were chosen foules for to synge,
As yer by yer was alwey hir usaunce
To synge a roundel at here departynge,
To don Nature honour and plesaunce.
The note, I trowe, imaked was in Fraunce,
The wordes were swiche as ye may heer fynde,
The nexte vers, as I now have in mynde.
"Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast thes wintres wedres overshake,
And driven away the longe nyghtes blake!
"Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte,
Thus syngen smale foules for thy sake:
Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast thes wintres wedres overshake.
"Wel han they cause for to gladen ofte,
Sith ech of hem recovered hath hys make,
Ful blissful mowe they synge when they wake:
Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast thes wintres wedres overshake,
And driven away the longe nyghtes blake!"
And with the shoutyng, whan the song was do
That foules maden at here flyght awey,
I wok, and othere bokes tok me to,
To reede upon, and yit I rede alwey.
I hope, ywis, to rede so som day
That I shal mete som thyng for to fare
The bet, and thus to rede I nyl nat spare.